Rory McIlroy believes golf is at a crossroads as the top players fine-tune their preparations for next week’s Masters and he is determined to be the one to show the way forward.
The 24-year-old Irishman has two major titles under his belt — the 2011 US Open and the 2012 PGA Championship — but he endured a torrid 12 months last year when equipment changes, business wrangles and personal matters got in the way of his supreme natural talent.
That all seems to be a thing of the past as the McIlroy machine is back into top gear with a win in Australia in December followed by two runner-up finishes at Abu Dhabi and in the Honda Classic.
On top of that, with world No.1 Tiger Woods absent through injury, Phil Mickelson also not fully fit and defending champion Adam Scott inconsistent, he has suddenly found himself installed as the betting favourite for the year’s first major.
It’s a role he relishes, but insists there are several players who have just as good a chance as he has to win a wide-open Masters.
“I mean, you look at the winners on Tour the last few months, it’s been a different guy each week, ” he said ahead of this week’s Houston Open, the final tournament before Augusta National.
“It’s almost like golf is waiting for someone to stamp their authority on the game and be that dominant player.
“We’ve seen players in the past like Tiger and Vijay (Singh) to a certain point in the middle 2000s winning nine, ten times a year. Haven’t seen much of that since then, and, you know, it’s harder to win out here.
“There’s so many more guys that have chances to win every time they tee it up. So I don’t think it’s just the Masters but golf in general is just very wide open at the moment, and I think a few guys need to put their hands up and try and be the dominant player because that’s what people like to see.
“It’s great for the sport to have people who are up there week in, week out that win tournaments, and then that creates sort of rivalries, and that’s something we haven’t really had in golf for a couple of years.
“And, you know, me personally as a fan of golf, it would be nice to see someone sort of break away. I hope it’s me. I hope it’s me as a fan of golf and fan of myself that I can do that.”